Charles Hilton Brown, perhaps best known in the literary field for his biographies of Kipling and of Robert Burns, was a novelist and travel writer as well as the author of much ‘light verse’ which delighted the readers of Punch for a good many years.
Born in Elgin in 1890, he was educated at Elgin Academy and at the University of St Andrews, from where he graduated in 1910 with first class honours in classics. His career in the Indian Civil Service started soon after graduation, and continued until 1934. This long period of service to local government in India was not without its rewards – a street in the Madras district was named ‘Hilton Brown Avenue’. During the war he worked for the BBC as a producer in the talks department.
His other career began in undergraduate days when, as ‘H.B.’ he began to contribute to student magazines, and to Punch, writing constantly on into the 1950s. Novel followed upon novel in the 1920s and 30s, as well as three collections of poetry; the literary biographies both appeared in the 1940s, along with a respected book on British life in India. For all Hilton Brown’s long sojourn in India, and many other travels, his heart, and his verses, turned constantly to his home in Elgin; to golf, dogs, and hill-walking, and the road to the north:
‘The Highland Road’s been sung before and should be sung again
With a verse for every heather hill and every rowan glen;
And, though God’s earth is a goodly place and a many roads there be,
It’s the North Road, the Atholl Road, the Highland Road for me!’
Although Hilton Brown didn’t often write in Scots, when he did, his touch was sure – ‘Glen, a Sheep-Dog’ is his most popular and frequently anthologised poem.
Charles Hilton Brown died in Nairobi in January 1961.